From Armenia with Regards

Mike Mkhitar Moradian feat photo
Mike Mkhitar Moradian

Mike Mkhitar Moradian

BY MIKE MKHITAR MORADIAN, Ph.D.

I am writing to you from the beautiful and lively Armenia. During the past few weeks, after attending the 5th International Medical Congress in Armenia, I interacted with hundreds of people, from taxi drivers to restaurant workers, shop keepers, hotel employees, farmers, ranchers, academics, researchers, and medical professionals, across different regions of the country. As a scientific and strategic leadership expert I could categorize their many interesting views, regarding the future of the country, into three different groups.

While the overwhelming majority was very excited and approved of the Velvet Revolution, almost half were cautiously optimistic, and to my surprise, a quarter were quite suspicious. The remaining quarter were the super supporters and already envisioned a bright future.

My inferences were somewhat concordant with the latest polls, where over 40 percent of participants declined to publicly approve or disapprove of the current government’s performance. In this article, I would like to share three key points and concerns that were commonly expressed and anticipated by the government. The first includes presenting a clear plan, or strategy, to overcome the major socioeconomic and political challenges in the country. Second, uprooting an extensively corrupt political and social order and establishing fair and just systems for all. Third, creating a strong national statehood and national army, using an all-inclusive approach. As the head of the government and the leader of the revolution, Prime Minister Pashinyan naturally becomes the addressee, so let’s begin.

Dear Prime Minister Pashinyan, you made history by pulling off an unlikely and unbelievable revolution to oust a somewhat corrupt regime. Your remarkable perseverance and determination led the Armenian people to the second major change after the independence in 1991. You brought hope and inspired life to the country, which puts a massive burden on your shoulders to carry on and implement the promises of the revolution. Obviously, it is improbable to introduce or implement changes in just one year, we all agree on that. However, it should have been quite possible to prepare a plan or strategy on how the government will be financing its operations and guarantees that everyone will pay their fair share of the taxes.

Collecting stolen money is a good first step, yet not a solution. Another major necessary action is to create a strategy to have major employers in the country, including the government, raise the employees’ salaries so the people can afford the living standards in Armenia. Incentives for large businesses, including tax cuts, are fine, yet they should come with government mandates such as creating more jobs and increasing workers’ pay, a major government responsibility. As you know, majority of the people live on salaries that are not sufficient to provide a normal life for their families and children—this group can also be considered the revolution’s backbone.

Speaking of people in need, I could not ignore the confrontation between government and the illegal loggers in the north, so I visited Ijevan and surrounding border villages such as Achajoor (Աչաջուր) and Sevkar (Սևքար). While I fully support the campaign against any illegal activity in the country, including logging, I realized that the issues were not as simple as just cutting trees. The people in Tavush region, especially villagers on the border with Azerbaijan, are very patriotic and concerned citizens. They are not part of an organized crime groups or looters of the forests. My impression was that they would never cut a tree if they did not have to. Unfortunately, for many years the forest was the only means for them to provide for their families. When the government took action, it was obvious that there was no root cause analysis performed on this issue before sending in the security forces. In fact, conducting root cause analysis is hardly a practice in Armenia.

You inherited an extensively corrupt political and social order from your predecessors, which creates enormous challenges for you. This corrupt order’s roots go back to the mid 90s, becoming this monster that, like a kraken, has inserted its multiple tentacles everywhere in the country. No one expects you or your government to uproot the corrupt system in a year or two, that is not even possible. What everyone expects is to take proper actions to defeat the corruption at its roots, which not only requires a root cause analysis but also needs establishing fair and just systems for all. Let’s begin with a complicated issue, such as breaking down the business monopolies. There are several micro-economic systems and solutions for a scientific approach to break monopolies, yet their effectiveness is contingent upon government’s enforcement of the business laws such as collection of customs fees and taxes equally from all importers.

Another major government role is to create and support competition and to limit the market share for almost every import, export, and, if possible, manufacturing. Once every businessman or businesswoman is guaranteed equal rights and fair business environment, then gradually the monopolies will lose their market share to small yet innovative and smart business owners.

A major reason for corruption is uneven distribution of wealth in the country and Armenia is no exception. A small group of super wealthy individuals, namely the oligarchs, control the overwhelming majority of the wealth and the resources in the country. Almost none of these so called oligarchs have made their fortunes through innovation or major manufacturing, don’t make a mistake, Armenia had no Bill Gates or Steve Jobs. But, Armenia has many bright minds who can become the future innovators and economic developers of the country. It is the government’s task to create a fair and just business and manufacturing environment for these brilliant minds to innovate and prosper. Basically, creating systems in the country that would guarantee that the country’s not so large wealth is fairly distributed among all the citizens where smart thinking and hard work could have a big pay out.

The Velvet Revolution’s major promise was that the people’s will and determination become the driving force in the country. This is only possible if we create a strong national statehood and national army, in other words, every Armenian citizen should feel that they are part of the government and a soldier of the country. In 2016, every Armenian in the country proved that they were the soldiers of the land and they would defend their homeland to their last breath. Yet, it seems like not every Armenian citizen believes that they are part of the government, which poses the challenge on you and your government to create a national statehood, by the people and for the people. This mandates an all-inclusive approach, which means that there should not be white or black Armenian, there is only one color Armenian—the All-Armenians. National unity is the only way to create the prosperous Armenia that you and everyone else in the country envisions.

I acknowledge that there could be many ideological and political differences among important forces in the country, but as the famous philosopher Socrates taught us, virtue is product of dialogue and new ideas are born during civil dialogues. Thus, if we want to have prosperous and virtuous statehood and citizens, then we should keep the dialogue open among all major forces in the country. Obviously, your government has super majority in the parliament and does not need to collaborate with any other political force to run the country, I respect that. However, a national statehood should include all the forces and to utilize all their means to the benefit of the country.

In this sense, I would like to focus on the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, the largest and most influential Armenian political party across the globe. Recent elections showed that the ARF has lost the trust of a large group of Armenian people perhaps solely due to its collaboration with the previous regime. This means that the ARF’s new leadership has more work to do to regain the people’s trust. However, let’s not forget that in the past century the ARF has saved tens of thousands of Armenian lives, has given us the Republic of Armenia, has created, strengthened, and maintained the vast Armenian Diaspora, and most recently was a major force during Artsakh’s liberation. It is expected that a large political force with such a long history could make mistakes, yet history has shown us that the ARF  learns from these mistakes and returns more determined with new and innovative ideas every time, and it is certain that this time will be no exception.

I would like to conclude with the following statement: Dear Prime Minister Pashinyan, it is the wish of every Armenian in the world to see the Velvet Revolution become the beginning of a prosperous and powerful Armenia. We cannot afford to repeat the mistakes of the previous three governments, we cannot afford to rely heavily on any external force to prosper, we cannot afford to disrespect each other and expect others to respect us, and finally, we cannot afford to keep the status quo. Let’s push forward together with all the forces in the country and in the Diaspora, let’s create the real national statehood, and let’s earn the seat that the Armenian people deserve, on all international arenas. History has been witness to what a capable people we are, we just need to revitalize people’s determination and the hope to create a bright future for all the Armenians with dignity, strength, and honor.

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7 Comments

  1. Արմենակ Եղիայեան said:

    Ամէն սրտցաւ հայ հաճոյքով պիտի ուզէր ստորագրել այս նամակին տակ:
    Այնքան խոր հայրնասիրութեամբ, պայծարամտութեամբ ու մանաւանդ արհեստագիտութեամբ յագեցած է ան:
    Կը մնայ, որ տեղ հասնի ան, անհրաժեշտ ունկնդրութիւն գտնէ եւ ըստ կարելւոյն գործադրութեան դրուի:

  2. Hagop Varoujian said:

    Excellent article! We, Armenians owe it to ourselves and our heroic ancestors to make our beloved homeland the envy of the world. As you state so clearly, we have the means, the Human Resources and the creative minds to make this work. Mr Pashinyan planted the seed, let us nurture it with tender love and care and watch it grow into a bountiful fruit bearing tree that will provide a fair share to all the people of Armenia with no exception. Yes we can do it, we Must do it! Over sentry years of soviet rule, followed by three successive corrupt governments have inflicted tremendous damage to the morale and wellbeing of our noble people. Let us all unite and make it happen!

  3. Sebouh Tashjian said:

    Mr Morsdian’s artical about Natioal Unity is the most refresing since the 1991 Independence. I was there from day one and served under Preaident Ter Petrossian as State Minister for five years. For some reason political unity among major Armrnian political parties has always been lacking. Many attempts were made by President Ter Petrossian’s government fot unity to no avail.
    Prime Minister Pashinyan has a realistic opportunity to unite major Political Parties and the Armenian people in Armenia, Arthsakh and Diaspora. We all should support him, and where appropriate guide him, to achive National Unity at all cost. This may very well be the last chance in the foreseeable future. Let us not blow it up.

  4. Henry said:

    Aside from the obvious condescending tone in this article it seems to fail to address the root cause of the problems even though it keeps mentioning the phrase. For so many years, “experts” who have never lived a day-to-day life in Armenia, keep advising the current government how to tackle the corruption. 1. This needs to stop. 2. The idea of “uniting” is so fraudulent that it’s kind of out of style. Armenian citizens have never been this united with the possible exception of Artsakh Movement. It’s so easy live a fabulous life in Sydney or Boston and then chant “unify”. 3 Armenian citizens know ARF all too well. They were the ones who handed over Armenia to the Bolsheviks, worked with Kocharyan to suppress Armenian citizens and steal from them. 4. What sounds nice and doable in the diaspora is simply not applicable in the Republic. So lets end this fake agenda and if you really want something to be done, go and invest in the Republic.

    Let’t not forget what this Revolution was about: to re-instate the will of the people and re-establish democratic electoral process. Everything else is a secondary issue and can be addressed with later governments.

    • MMM said:

      Henry, you are entitled to your anti ARF sentiments what you are NOT entitled to is to belittle and insult the contributions of thousands of diaspora Armenians to the Republic since the 1991 independence. I have faith in the Armenian people, they are good and original people so instead of expressing such disappointing and discouraging posts I advise you to think about how to contribute to the national unity, after all we all know that is the only way to success.
      I give you an example. In the past decade I have collaborated with my Geneticist colleagues in the clinical genetic department of the medical school in Armenia as an adjunct professor (an unpaid position). I have taught them the new technology, research, and together we have published several high impact scientific articles on the genetic diseases of the Armenian population. Something that many of the former soviet republics, including Azerbaijan and Georgia don’t have. I do all this after work and on the weekends, instead of enjoying the life in Sydney or Boston as you mention. So, please have a little bit more faith and you, too, shall prevail. It is the 21st century after all.

  5. Jirair Momjian said:

    The ARF and sympathisers, once again, are falling into a trap. For the last 30 years, in and out of government, from inside and outside, but never in full control, the ARF tried to advise, direct the men in power in Armenia towards resolution of issues of national interests. Sometimes it succeeded, most of the time failed. Among the successes, to name a few … putting the Armenian Genocide on the Armenia’s external policy agenda (Kocharian’s 5-minute speech in UN, after Ter Bedrosian’s declaration that the Genocide is Turkahays’ issue), the withdrawal from the protocols (after Sarkisian had signed it), the adoption of the new constitution (where the Executive is responsible to the Parliament, that is to the people). Among the failures … there are a number. Tried but failed to convince the previous presidents … to appoint an independent, not president appointed, ombudsman to fight corruption, … to totally separate the Judiciary from the executive, … to stop interfering with election, … Then, what did ARF got out of playing the councillor, advisor? An anti-ARF marketing campaign which accused ARF with the shortcomings, to say the least, of previous administrations. Now is enough. No need to waste time advising Pashinyan. Like his predecessor’s he won’t listen anyway. He doesn’t have to. For ARF there are the people to talk to. To council, advise. To be constructive opposition, show the people there is an alternative. The people need to know who can provide that alternative.

  6. ME said:

    Kudos to the author for being critical. Without criticism, there will be no change. The problem is that when you criticize, you really need to focus on the specifics or else you leave the impression that your criticism is merely for the sake of criticism. I am afraid that is exactly what the author has done with his article/letter. Take the redistribution of wealth. Pashinyan has no connection with the oligarchs and it is very unlikely he will ever rely on them. So, it would have been extremely easy for him to simply confiscate their belongings and redistribute them among the poor. That would have made him some kind of modern Robin Hood and would raise his profile especially before the elections, he would win 90 percent instead of 70 percent of the vote. The problem is that anyone remotely familiar with business and economy knows that such a move would have destroyed Armenia’s business environment. Even those who had never been involved in any kind of corruption would sell their belongings and leave. So the question is what does the author really wants Pashinyan to do when it comes to wealth redistribution? Raising taxes? Well, you cannot raise taxes only for the oligarchs. In the end of the day the only thing you can do is to create a business environment that will lead to wealth redistribution by time and that is exactly what Pashinyan has been trying to do.

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